Sleep-related experiences longitudinally predict elevation in psychopathological distress in young adult Israelis exposed to terrorism Academic Article uri icon


  • Unusual sleep and dream experiences-such as elevated dream recall, nightmares, hypnagogic hallucinations, flying dreams, or waking dreams-constitute a trait of atypical nocturnal cognitions that has been associated with life stress and psychopathological distress, as well as terrorism-related stress. In the present study, this trait was explored as a predictor of psychopathological distress following Israel's 2012 "Operation Pillar of Defense" by employing a prospective-longitudinal design. Fifty-three participants, for whom baseline data on psychopathology, sleep, and dreaming were previously assessed, were contacted again in the week following the conclusion of the Operation. They filled out questionnaires regarding sleep experiences, psychopathological distress, the degree of exposure to terrorism, dissociative experiences, and sleep quality. An elevation in psychopathological symptoms, from pre- to post-Operation measurements, was predicted by degree of exposure to terrorism, but also by pre-Operation sleep experiences. This effect of unusual dreaming in prospectively predicting psychopathological reactions to terrorism-related stress was also replicated when reanalyzing existing longitudinal data from a previous study on exposure to terrorism. These novel findings point to the importance of individual differences in nocturnal cognition as clinical indicators of risk for stress reactivity and psychopathology in the face of traumatic stress.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016